Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Ten

Isaac looked the baby bird in the eye that he could see through the hole in its eggshell. “I’m not your mother,” he said.

“I know that,” the baby bird said. Its voice was muffled. “You’re much too small. You look more like food. Besides, mother’s voice sounds different.”

“I’m not food,” Isaac said. “I’m really much bigger than this.”

“No you’re not,” the baby bird said. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Even if it doesn’t make sense, it’s true,” Isaac said. “I got shrunk by an elevator. Normally, I’m much bigger than your mother.”

“I don’t think anything is bigger than mother,” the baby bird said.

“Why?” Isaac asked.

“Mother talks to us all the time. She tells us about the tops of the trees and the mountains and the clouds.   She can look down on everything,” the little bird said.

“That’s because she can fly,” Isaac said.

“What’s flying?”

“Well, that’s when you move your body up in the air. You’re not taller, your feet are just further off the ground,” Isaac said.

“Show me,” the bird said.

“I can’t fly,” Isaac said.

“Why not?”

Isaac almost said that he was much too big to fly, but then he remembered that he wasn’t very big any more. “Well, I don’t have feathers or wings,” he said.

“What’s that?” the baby bird asked.

“You ask a lot of questions,” Isaac said.

“I have a lot to learn,” the baby bird said. “What are feathers or wings?”

Isaac looked around and picked up a long feather half-hidden in the grass.   “This is a feather. Birds like your mother have lots of them. Wings are the flappy arms that they use to fly.”

“If the wings are for flying, what are the feathers for?” the baby bird asked.

“To help catch the air, I guess. See, watch.” Isaac found another feather, and holding one in each hand, he pushed down on the air several times, as though he were a bird about to take off.

“You’re flying!” the baby bird said.

For a moment, Isaac believed it was true. He could look down at the grass below, and the eggs seemed much smaller.   Then he realized that his feet were still on the ground. “I’m not flying, I’m taller,” Isaac said. “My feet haven’t moved.”

“Well, come back,” the baby bird said. “I have more questions, and it’s harder to understand you way up there.”

“I don’t know how,” Isaac said.

“You were showing me how to fly,” the baby bird said. “So just do the opposite.”

“You mean landing?” Isaac tried pushing the air up with the feathers. They were smaller now and he had to adjust his grip. He flapped his arms and shrunk.

“This is great! Now I can leave,” Isaac said.

“Why do you want to leave?” the baby bird asked.

“Because I want to go home,” Isaac said.

“This is home,” the baby bird said.

Isaac sighed. “It’s not my home.”

“You could stay here and answer my questions,” the baby bird said. “Then it would be your home.”

“But I can’t fly. Not even with feathers. And I don’t have wings,” Isaac said. “Besides, I would miss my family too much.”

“What’s family?” the baby bird asked.

“It’s the people you love who love you too. Like your mom and dad and the other baby birds in the other eggs in your nest,” Isaac said.

“Is family part of home?”

“It’s what makes it home,” Isaac said. “My family could change houses, and then the new house would be home.   Home is where they are.”

“Then why are you here?” the baby bird asked.

“Because I don’t know how to get back,” Isaac said.

“I don’t understand,” the baby bird said.

“I hope you never do,” Isaac said. “Don’t leave your home until you’re old enough to find the way back.”

Suddenly, everything was a lot dimmer. Isaac looked up to see a large bird circling overhead. “It’s your mother!”

“Yay! Isn’t it wonderful? Now I’ll know what home looks like,” the baby bird said.

Isaac did not think this was wonderful. He was terrified she’d swoop in and eat him.  He needed to be too big to eat. Clutching the feathers a little tighter, he began to flap his arms, pushing down on the air around him.

Charlie’s Room: Dinosaur Club

When Isaac came home from work, there was a sign propped up in the front window that said, “Please Join My Dinosaur Club.” That sounded like fun. So, after he’d put his hat and mittens in his coat pockets and hung up his coat and scarf in the closet, he went to find Charlie.

“Tell me about your dinosaur club,” he said.

“Well, my friends at school and I like dinosaurs so we kind of already have a club,” Charlie said. “We just need to have meetings and do fun things.”

“What kinds of things?” Isaac asked.

“I thought that maybe we could build a time machine and visit the dinosaurs,” Charlie said.

“That sounds a little dangerous,” Isaac said.

“Yeah, we’d need to invent a force field too,” Charlie said. “To keep the meat-eating dinosaurs away. And so that the bigger herbivores don’t step on us.”

“That’s a good idea,” Isaac said. “When is your first meeting?”

“Saturday,” Charlie said. “Miss Marta from next door saw my sign and wanted to join my club so that’s what I told her. Saturday after lunch, so at one-ish?”

“Let’s talk to your Mom and see what she thinks,” Isaac said.

“I already did,” Charlie said. “She said she’d be in charge of the refreshments. I’m putting you in charge of the time machine and the force field.”

“What’s your job?” Isaac asked.

“Oh, I’m going to call the club members and tell them about the meeting,” Charlie said. “This is going to be so much fun!”

So, Isaac needed to invent a time machine, and a force field too. But not really, because honestly, he thought time machines were a bad idea. Too much could go wrong. It was much better to look forward and take things one day at a time. So, he’d just have to invent a time machine activity. That didn’t sound too difficult.

He drove to the thrift store and bought some old clocks and egg beaters and mismatched silverware. Then he looked through his toolbox for washers and screws and wires, and tools to work with. In the kitchen he found brown paper bags and aluminum foil. He looked through the craft supplies too, and found tape and glue and yarn and markers and feathers and clear beads and river rocks and pipe cleaners. In the garage he found some boxes waiting to be recycled.

On the day of the meeting, Miss Marta was the first to arrive. Then old Mr. Jones from across the street came over.   Then Charlie’s friends Tim, Robert, Kyle and John came over. They gathered in the living room.

“Thank you all for coming,” Charlie said. “Dad invented a time machine, so today we’ll all go visit the dinosaurs.”

“Actually,” Isaac said, “I thought we could invent a time machine at our meeting today and travel in time later. I’ll be right back.”

He brought in his boxes of supplies. “What’s all this?” Charlie said, as he started to look through one of the boxes.

“Time machine materials. I thought we could each invent our own portable time traveling and force field device. I think it needs to be small enough to fit in your pocket so that you don’t lose it,” Isaac said.

He cut a square of cardboard off of one of the boxes and started inventing.   Everyone looked at each other for a moment. “Sounds like fun,” Marianne said. She pulled out some of the beads and the wire. With that, everyone started to look through the boxes and pull things out.

The time travel devices all looked very different and very interesting.   None of them worked, of course, but everyone seemed to have fun. Marianne brought out a veggie tray and fruit popsicles. “I think this is what dinosaurs ate,” she said.

“Unless they ate meat,” Tim said.

“I didn’t want to serve raw meat,” Marianne said. “It’s too messy.”

“And gross,” Charlie said, making a face.

“When are we meeting again?” Mr. Jones asked.

“In two weeks,” Charlie said. “I think we’ll have a movie night. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” Marianne said. “In two weeks.”

Everyone said they’d be there and that they’d had a lot of fun. The club meeting was a success.

That night, when Isaac went to tuck Charlie in, he found Charlie sitting on his bed looking at his time travel invention. “I wish we could have time traveled for real,” he said.

“It’s probably better this way,” Isaac said.

“Maybe,” Charlie said. “Or maybe not. Someday I’ll invent a real time machine.”

“Alright,” Isaac said. “Just take me along on your first trip, okay?”

“Of course I will,” Charlie said. “It will be lots of fun.”

“Of course it will,” Isaac said.

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Nine

Isaac trudged down the dirt path. It felt like he’d been walking for hours. But, the scenery hadn’t changed. Tall grass everywhere. And then, finally, he walked into a clearing.

A giant shoe towered over him, as tall as a house. There was a hole in the heel with uneven edges, as though something had been chewing on it. But what would chew a hole in a shoe, and why?

As he walked a little closer, he could hear tiny, high-pitched voices.   “I’m hungry,” one said. “Me too.” “And me.” “Me three.” Other voices joined in.

And then, a mouse looked out of the hole in the heel of the shoe. It was a large mouse, as big as Isaac. It climbed out of the shoe and looked at him with dark eyes that didn’t seem to blink at all.

Little baby mice scurried out of the shoe and pulled on the mouse.   “Mommy, I’m hungry,” one shrieked, and then the other little mice started crying that they were hungry too.

The little mice were as big as dogs. Isaac had always wanted a dog, but couldn’t have one. Was he allergic to mice, too? Would his parents notice if he brought home a giant mouse? He could hide it under his bed.

He looked again at the hole in the shoe. Maybe his house couldn’t handle a giant mouse. His parents would notice if giant holes started appearing everywhere.   Mice must have very sharp teeth.

Suddenly, Isaac felt a little nervous. He looked at the mice. The mother mouse looked at him. “Children,” the mouse said. “I think he has food.”

“Who?” “Where?” The children asked.

“Over there,” the mouse said. She pointed at Isaac. “I can smell it.”

Isaac’s mind nearly went blank with fear. The little mice began to run towards him. And then he remembered the sour berries in his pockets. He pulled one out. “Here,” he said. “Food.   Go catch it.”

He threw the berry far away into the grass beyond the shoe. Several mice ran after it. He threw another and another until he was out of both berries and mice. Then he ran down the path, as quickly as he could.

It was too bad he couldn’t keep one of the little mice. They could play catch, just like a dog. But they had those sharp, sharp teeth. And of course eventually, they’d get bigger. As big as the mother mouse.

Isaac remembered the dark eyes and shivered. No, he didn’t want to take home a little mouse. Even if they could play catch. Right now, he’d just be happy to get home at all.

If he grew back to his normal size, maybe he’d pop right out of this potted plant world, wherever it was, and back into the lobby. Stairs and elevators had worked before. What else could work like that to make him grow?

A ladder? A witch’s broom? Maybe he could find a nice rope with a hook at the end and he could carry it around with him. Or a flying carpet.

Isaac looked around. Tall grass everywhere. At least there weren’t any hungry mice or ants. He sighed and kept walking.

As he walked, he started to hear a tapping sound. It sounded like someone was knocking on a door somewhere nearby.   Perhaps they could give him directions?   Isaac hurried down the path towards the noise.

Finally there was another break in the grass, and the ground to the left of the path sloped downwards into a round, shallow hollow. Four large speckled eggs were nestled together in the center of the hollow. Isaac looked up and around, but didn’t see the mother bird anywhere.

He was about to hurry on, when he realized that the tapping sound was coming from the eggs. And then there was a sharp cracking sound, and a small hole appeared in the closest egg.   The tapping stopped, and an eye peeked through the hole and looked at Isaac.

Charlie’s Room: The Dresser Drawer

Isaac and Marianne shuffled down the hallway, following Charlie. “It’s too early,” Marianne said.

“It’s Christmas,” Isaac said. “Of course we’re up too early.”

“Maybe when he’s older, he’ll want to sleep in,” Marianne said. “That would be nice.”

“I think we’ll miss this,” Isaac said. “It’s kind of fun.”

“Hurry up,” Charlie said from the living room. “Why are you still out in the hallway? The presents are in here.”

Marianne sighed. “We’re coming,” she called back.

They sat on the couch, next to their stockings and waited for Charlie to start emptying his own stocking out. But instead of hurrying over to the chair where his stocking was waiting, he darted over to the Christmas tree instead.

“Stockings first,” Marianne said.

But Charlie bent over and struggled to pick up something.   “Is that a dresser drawer?” Isaac asked.

“That wasn’t under the tree before,” Marianne said.

“It’s from Charlie’s dresser. And look, it has a bow on it,” Isaac said.

Charlie walked over and handed the drawer to Isaac.   “It’s for you,” he said.

“Um, thank you Charlie,” Isaac said. He looked down into the drawer as he took it from Charlie. A blanket looked like it had been scrunched up and shoved inside, and resting on the blanket was Marianne’s old baby doll.

Marianne looked at the doll and looked at Charlie.   “Why did you give him my old baby doll?   And your dresser drawer?”

Charlie grinned. “Dad’s always saying that he wishes we could act out the nativity like his family did growing up.”

Marianne nodded. “Yes, but there’s not enough of us, dear. We need lots of people to act out the nativity. Shepherds and angels and wise men and more.”

“But Mom,” Charlie said. “I thought if you and I dressed up, we could be Mary and Joseph.   Dad could read the story and we could act out the important parts anyway. He could still read the rest too. See, there’s even a baby Jesus and a manger.”

Isaac smiled. “That’s a wonderful idea, Charlie. I’d really like that.”

“Right now?” Marianne asked. “Before stockings?”

Charlie laughed. “Come on. It’ll be fun. I have some ideas for the costumes.”

And so Marianne and Charlie left Isaac alone in the living room. The Christmas tree lights shone softly, and he looked down at the plastic baby doll, wrapped in an old fuzzy blanket and lying in a dresser drawer. He thought about another baby born a long time ago, and his own son born more recently, and he smiled.

Charlie and Marianne returned, dressed in bathrobes and wearing towels on their heads, secured there with Isaac’s neckties.   Charlie handed him a Bible, and he read the Christmas story while they acted out their parts.

When Isaac was younger, he and his aunts and uncles and cousins and parents acted the Christmas story out while Grandfather read the story and Grandmother took pictures. It was noisy and chaotic and wonderful, even if Isaac was usually a sheep or a donkey. Once, he’d been a shepherd.

At Christmas time, he often missed having so much family around, even if he was grateful for his little family and wouldn’t trade them for anything. But this Christmas eased that small ache. The excitement and joy and wonder he felt as a child was back as he read the Christmas story for his family.

It was a wonderful Christmas. He couldn’t stop smiling.

Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Eight

Isaac slid down one step, and then another. The ceiling seemed a little further away. He still wasn’t sure whether it was him or the house that was growing or shrinking, but the stairs seemed to cause it. He looked up the stairs. Would he be able to get up the stairs before he was too big to fit up the hallway?

Probably not. He tried jumping down and skipping a step. He didn’t shrink as much as he had walking down two steps. Perhaps skipping steps was the answer? And when he was bigger he could skip more steps at a time. Would it be possible, skipping steps, to get to the top of the stairs before he was too big?

Was there a way to skip the steps all together? Perhaps the spider could climb along the wall and check for keys upstairs. That would be a lot easier.   Just then, Isaac heard the front door slam closed. Perfect timing.

Isaac hurried to the bottom of the stairs, growing smaller (or the house growing bigger) as he went. And then he heard the tromping sound of heavy boots, and voices that he didn’t recognize were speaking somewhere nearby.

The people who really owned the house must have returned. How could he explain standing in the middle of someone else’s house where he didn’t belong? They’d call for the ants, and this time they’d make sure he couldn’t escape again.

Isaac looked around the hallway. He ducked into the room opposite the parlor and hid behind the door.   The voices and footsteps grew louder, and now he could understand what they were saying.

“I still say it looks like someone was here. You should have seen the bears’ house. They had broken furniture and someone ate their food and slept in their beds. We need to start locking the doors when we’re out,” a voice said.

“No one was here, and they caught the intruder at the bears’ house,” a second voice said.

“What about the gingerbread house? Someone ate it, and they never did find out who,” the first voice said.

“I still say you worry too much,” the second voice said. “Wait. What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“There, in the parlor,” the second voice said. “Is that a web?”

“Are there giant spiders in our house? Let’s burn it down. Now.”

“Not with me inside, you won’t,” the second voice said.

“Then you’d better get out now.”

Isaac looked around feeling panicked. He did not want to be stuck inside a burning house. He was hiding in a small, dark laundry room. Luckily, in a back corner of the room, there was another door. He tiptoed across the room and eased the door open.

On the other side of the door, there was a small garden. How was this in the potted plant? He was beginning to think he was somewhere else altogether.   He eased the door shut behind him and started to walk through the garden. He stayed near the edges of the orchard and tried to stay under the branches of the tall berry bushes.

He picked up some of the large berries and put several in his pockets.   He ate one of them, grimacing at the sour taste. He was hungry though, and ate around the bruises on the fruit.

At the end of the garden there was a dirt path. Well, it would be easier to find his way back if he followed the path.   Should he just turn around now?   If he wasn’t in the potted plant any more, was he just going further and further away from home? But he didn’t know how to get back through the woods.

The spider might know. He needed to find the spider. The spider would know the way back to the lobby. But then what?

He’d figure that out once he got there. First he had to find the spider. He’d said he was going to visit Miss Muffet. Maybe someone along this path would be able to give him directions.   He took a deep breath and started walking down the path.